World“s First Demon Lord Chapter 57: Stealth Mission
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April 23, 12:01 pm BT – 10:01 am UT, Turpan, China
The sun beat its merciless rays upon the desert city, the sweltering heat making it slightly difficult to breathe. With all that said, the city worked as usual; its citizens walking about their daily life, only stopping every now and then to complain to each other about how hot it had been lately.
"Seems to be getting hotter lately," said one old, bearded man, chewing on a stick of wheat. He usually stood, cross-armed by the college. No one knew where he worked or what he did, or where he got the stick of wheat from. All they knew was that if they ended up getting sucked into a conversation with him, he would talk their ear off about the weather and how it had steadily been getting hotter.
"It's all the government's fault," he would whisper. "It's cause of all their 'emissions.'"
Irade, who was the unfortunate one who got dragged into listening to him, didn't know what he was saying, of course. She didn't speak or understand Uyghur, aside from a few, very basic words.
That said, sitting next to this man in the shade of the college building made her practically invisible. No one wanted to talk to this man, to the point where they all avoided him on reflex.
It was very useful for avoiding the police.
The police were everywhere here. To the point where it was a little excessive. There were portable police boxes on almost every corner, checkpoints at the entrance to malls, and even the guard at the public bathroom had and ID scanner.
Of course, Irade had heard stories of the brave police officers they had sent to Xinjiang for everyone's safety. But this seemed a little excessive.
Then again, Irade was a little biased, as she was technically a criminal on the run.
For the past couple of days, Irade had been evading the police, all while trying to get out of the city. Public transport like trains or buses were out of the question: there was no way for her to get past those checkpoints. Therefore, the plan now was to try and see if she could get out through some sort of food transportation vehicle.
The problem up until now was finding such a vehicle.
As the man talked to her in Uyghur, Irade looked through the map she had stolen from a certain store. With her current [Speed] and [Agility], she could do small movements fast enough that they were just a blur on a normal CCTV camera. As such, it was simple enough to steal food and necessities, as long as she had a way into and out of the store. For that, she mostly used [Flight] to get in from the ceiling.
Her abilities also helped her get a change of clothes, thankfully. She was now wearing comfortable jeans and a t-shirt that read I Love Turpan, with some Arabic script underneath. She also had a small cigarette lighter, a couple different shirt pants and underclothes, and some non-perishables stuffed in her rucksack.
Armed with a new disguise, Irade had been able to gather some new information from the library. For example, she found out that Turpan was where most of the country's grapes were produced, and were actually exported worldwide. That surprised her for some reason. Partly because she didn't know that grapes could grow in the desert, even if it was in an oasis.
There were two things that had impressed Irade about this city. The first was how technologically advanced it was. It was no Beijing, but it still had high rises and security, to the point of excess as mentioned. Although, this was mostly in the central city area of Turpan. The further to the outskirts one went, the less technologically developed it became, adopting the more traditional, desert oasis city look Irade imagined Turpan to be.
The second thing that impressed Irade was the sheer size of the city. It was large; much larger than Irade had expected. According to this map, Turpan was a "prefecture-level city," whatever that meant. Irade had a feeling it meant that the city of Turpan was the size of a prefecture, but wasn't as advanced.
Not that it really mattered. What Irade needed to do was to get out of here as soon as possible.
Irade folded up the map and put it in her little rucksack. She smiled at the man, who grinned back. He gestured for her to hold out a hand. She did while he rummaged through his pockets. Suddenly, he poured a whole bunch of sunflower seeds into her hand.
"Ah...rehmet," she said, bowing slightly. The man's grin never faded as he said something else in Uyghur. Irade listened for a while, eating the seeds, just enjoying the presence of someone who actually wanted her there. It wasn't a feeling she was very used to.
Besides, she needed to mentally prepare herself for tonight. From the information she gathered, it seemed like today was an export day.
And Irade had a long way to travel.
After a while, she smiled again at the man, and made her goodbyes. He watched her leave, sighing.
"You're not coming back, are you?" he muttered to himself.
April 23, 8:23 pm BT – 6:23 pm UT, Turpan, China
The sun could be seen setting over that distant mountain range, and from where Irade was lying down she could see even more, snow-capped titans in the distance. The sky becoming a slow gradient of purple blue to an orange-pink halo over the distant range. The air had become cooler too, a sweet tang of grapes hanging lightly in the air.
She watched the sun set in the lush green valley below. There was a beauty of contrasts between the fertile green on the valley, and the barren brown rock of the mountain that jutted out on the other side.
Irade was positioned a little above the valley, among a little outcrop of rocks. She lay flat on her belly as she looked down, scanning the green below slowly. Her rucksack was slung over her shoulder, laying on her back, and her clothes were a little torn.
She was panting slightly, her face shining with sweat and grime. She had swapped between walking, running, and flying here, all the while being chased by the authorities. She had managed to lose them a few kilometers back, when she had started climbing the mountain to get into this valley.
This was the Turpan Grape Valley, also known as Pu Tao Gou, which was also a popular tourist attraction. Grapes from these vines traveled the world, reaching the mouths of people who had never even heard of a place called Turpan.
It was also Irade's ticket to getting out of this desert city.
As long as she managed to get in one of the exiting trucks, she should be able to hide for the lax inspection out, and then jump off the truck once she had reached her destination. Of course; that would be the worst-case scenario. If she managed to actually sneak into Urumqi on one of these trucks, then that would obviously better. But Irade had a feeling that the trucks entering a city would have a much harder time getting through inspection than trucks getting out of the city.
Irade moved slowly along the rock outcrop above the valley, looking for the trucks. She was taking it slow because one, she was tired, and two, she needed to conserve strength. She had spent most of the day running; she needed to use this time to eat and drink a bit too.
That said, Irade was feel antsy. She had already been looking for a while now, and there were still no signs of any trucks. A sudden thought hit her:
What if the trucks had all already left?
No, that couldn't be. Could it?
Her heart started pounding harder in her chest. If she missed the truck today, that would mean she would have to wait another week for the next batch of trucks. She couldn't wait a week! She had a hard enough time evading the police for two days!
Irade took a deep breath, forcing herself to calm down; she couldn't lose her cool now. Just stay calm, and confirm whether or not the trucks had already left. If they were already gone, then there was nothing she could do. She would just have to find another way out.
She didn't have any other choice.
Calm once more, Irade kept scanning the valley below. The more green she saw, the more her heart dropped. It didn't seem like there were any trucks there now.
But it wasn't until she saw the gate at the end of the green below her, the one that lead into a large parking lot, did Irade heart truly sink. The parking lot was empty.
Damnit, she was too late.
Irade hung her head in defeat. She was tired, so tired. Not as tired as she had been when she arrived at that hotel all those weeks ago but...she just wanted to rest. She just wanted a night of rest, without having to look over her shoulder without having to think about anything else.
To her surprise, Irade realized that she was actually missing her days with her so-called family. At least then, she had some daily structure, some sense of peace of mind. Nowadays, every day brought only uncertainty and panic. She found that she now craved that stability.
Or did she?
Actually, now that she thought about it, the days Irade missed most was her week or so in the hotel. Back then, she had some safety and stability, an eventual goal, but also had the freedom to do whatever she wanted. Barring going outside, of course. But even that limited freedom was a lot better than the suffocating indifference of her so-called parents.
Was that really all she wanted? A place to live, some small goal to work towards, and the freedom to do what she wanted? Did she really have no ambitions whatsoever?
No. Irade sighed. This was not the time to think about such things. She could think about this after she had found a way out of Turpan.
For now, she had to get out of this valley. Then, she needed to find another route out of here, or dodge the authorities for a week. Whichever was faster.
Just as Irade was about to activate [Flight] to get out of there, she froze. She frowned, listening intently. She looked down at the valley. There was the sound of something coming from somewhere down there, but what…
Her heart leaped with joy as she realized what is was, and saw where it was coming from.
An entire convoy of large, white, 18-wheeler trucks, entering the valley. Irade could see them in the distance, coming in at a rapid speed. They would be entering the parking lot soon.
Oh, wait, that meant she had to get down there. Fast.
But also without being seen.
Irade swiftly made her way down the valley, using [Flight] to ['Dash'] from rocky outcrop to outcrop, until she was all the way down the bottom of the valley, among the vines. She closed her eyes to use the [Monster Map]. She had found out that vehicles were a bright green on the [Monster Map], making the map useful to tracking the progress of the trucks. Most of them had already entered the parking lot, but there were still a few coming in.
She quickly made her way through the vines, traveling as fast as she could without attracting attention to herself. She made sure to keep an eye out for people with her [Monster Map], which were all marked in a bright pink.
However, it seemed like she had miscalculated a little. By the time she reached the parking there were only a handful of trucks left.
Irade used her [Monster Map] to peer through the vines. There were a couple workers out there, filling up the truck with grapes. She was faced with a couple of problems:
1) She needed to avoid these people in order to get into the trucks, and
2) She needed to know where these trucks went before boarding. It would be terribly ironic if she just jumped on a truck to find that it was going back to Beijing.
She peeked out from the vines, and saw a couple of people closing a truck. Well, looks like she wasn't getting into that one.
There were three more trucks that were still being loaded. Irade used ['Dash'] to instantly zip over to the one of them, rushing past a couple workers.
"Did you see that?" she heard one of them say. She quickly rolled under the truck, just in case he decided to look over.
"See what?" asked his partner.
Irade didn't hear them say anything for a while.
"Nothing, I guess," he said. "Just thought I saw...nevermind."
Irade let out a small breath she hadn't known she had been holding, and started crawling to the front of the truck. Once she reached the head of the truck, she used [Monster Map] to check if anyone was in the driver's seat.
No one. She rolled out from underneath, and tried the door. Locked. Damnit.
She checked to see if the coast was clear, and rushed over to the next truck in line. Luckily, this one's door was open.
Irade scrambled inside, and looked around. Her eyes instantly fell on the phone holde stuck to the windshield, holding an iPhone.
Bingo. That probably had a GPS, with the destination loaded in. She tried to unlock it, only to find it was password protected.
Irade almost threw the phone down in frustration when her eye caught a piece of paper with a series of numbers on it, just below the windshield.
It coudn't...could it?
Well, she had nothing to lose.
To her surprise, the number really was the password for the phone. She stared in shock at the now open phone momentarily before reminding herself that she didn't have the luxury of time.
Quickly, she opened up the GPS app. It looked like the driver had already locked in a location. It was…
Irade stared at the phone. What were the chances that she would just happen to get on a truck going to Kashgar, her birth city? At a moment in time when she was trying to "go back to her past?"
Was this fate's way of telling her to go to Kashgar?
Someone started yelling in Uyghur, making Irade look up. There was another truck beside her, and the voice was coming from the other side.
Hearing the voice woke Irade from her stupor. She needed to make a choice, now.
Kashgar, or Urumqi?
It wasn't even a choice, was it?
Using [Monster Map] and ['Dash'], Irade boarded the truck to Kashgar, hiding behind the crates of grapes. She sat quietly, still as a statue, as the workers closed the doors to the truck.
She closed her eyes, and watched with the [Monster Map] as the truck slowly moved out of the parking lot. There wasn't even an inspection as they drove out of the city, onto the road.
She deactivated [Monster Map] at that point. She could barely see anything with it anyway. There was barely any point. And she was tired. So, so tired.
She ate a couple of grapes before settling in. The floor was uncomfortable, but not unbearable. She had sat on worse. After a few minutes, the vibrations of the engine had lulled Irade to sleep.
They moved quietly in the night, the moon slowly rising above as the starts twinkled into existence.
Irade finally was on her way home.
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